On July 11, 2022, VAN’s Stephen Chapis was afforded a unique opportunity during a visit to Sanders Aeronautics in Ione, California. For over ten years, Stephen had followed the restoration of the Dwelle family’s T. Mk. 20 WE 820 (formerly known as Blind Man’s Bluff/Critical Mass) and as the first post-restoration flight approached, Stephen and Ken Dwelle discussed the customary photo flight. During those discussions, Stephen broached the subject of flying a Sea Fury four-ship with WE 820 and the Sanders’ Sea Furies 924, Argonaut, and Dreadnought. Ken spoke to Dennis Sanders who enthusiastically agreed to the flight.
In the week leading up to the flight, the photo ship and pilot lineup was finalized. The photo ship was Sanders’ TBM-3U BuNo 39629 with Bernie Vasquez at the controls. Down below with Stephen was Sanders’ Jim Rollison. Leading the Sea Fury formation was Ken in WE 820, with the late Sherman Smoot in Argonaut, Dennis in 924, and Joel Swager in Dreadnought. Thanks to a thorough pre-flight brief and precision flying by the pilots, the flight went exactly as planned. The following video is a brief behind-the-scenes look at the preparation and on-board videos.